The Virgin and the Viscount (Lords of Vice #4) - Robyn DeHart


London, 1846

Matilda Ramsey took a deep breath and smoothed her hands over her skirts. It was now or never. As of tomorrow—no, later today—the love of her life would marry her older sister. Before that happened, Tilly was determined to tell Thomas how she felt about him.

Tilly, ever practical, had no illusions that the charming Mr. Chase would cast aside her beautiful older sister. She neither expected nor wanted that. Melanie was more beautiful and poised than Tilly. Certainly, more deserving of being a wife to a gentleman from such an honorable family.

She didn’t know what she expected to happen when she revealed her feelings to Thomas. She knew only that her silly, aching heart could not let Thomas marry Melanie without first knowing that Tilly loved him.

Once Thomas and Melanie married, Tilly would never again voice her feelings. Of course she wouldn’t. She would no longer have claim to him. She would have to bury deep this hopeless, helpless love that felt like it might rise up inside her and smother her.

The only option was to tell him now how she felt. Before the ceremony. Before he was forever beyond her reach.

Both sides of each family were staying at the Glenbrook townhome in London. They’d had a pre-wedding celebratory dinner the night before that lasted until sometime after midnight. It was now pre-dawn and she was running out of time.

She didn’t bother knocking on the study door, but instead opened it and stepped inside. She’d seen Thomas come into this room an hour before and had been pacing upstairs, waiting for courage to come to her.

The study was dark, save for one lone lamp behind the desk. The large leather chair sitting behind the desk creaked but faced the opposite wall. The sound of pages from a book being turned was the only sound. In the dim lighting, all she could see of Thomas were strong, masculine legs stretched out in front of the chair.

She took a cleansing breath. “I’m going to say this quickly, so please don’t interrupt.”

The chair across the room moved.

“Don’t turn around. I’m not certain how long my courage will hold, so allow me to say my piece without me looking upon your face.”

The chair stilled and she squeezed her eyes shut and forged forward. “I know the ceremony is rapidly approaching, only a few more hours. I’m certain that what I’m about to say isn’t going to change anything, but I won’t be able to live with myself if I’m not honest with you. The truth is, I love you, Thomas. I’m in love with you, and I believe marrying my sister is a mistake. I know she won’t make you happy the way I can. I understand Melanie is prettier than I am, I know that.” She took a gulping breath and continued. “She’s more poised and talented, which makes her more conventionally desirable for a wife. But all of that also means you wouldn’t have to worry about being jealous of other men paying attention to me because they wouldn’t, not the way they will to Melanie.”

Thomas had initially expressed interest in courting her, but one encouraging look from her older sister and he’d switched paths. But she was hoping there was something left of his interest in her. Probably not enough for him to run away with her and leave her sister at the altar. Was that even what she wanted? Did she want to be that person, the one who destroyed her own sister’s happiness?

No, she didn’t.

But she also didn’t believe Melanie truly loved Thomas. For Melanie, everything was a competition despite the fact the two sisters were as different as night and day. Melanie had decided she wanted Thomas because he’d first wanted Tilly.

“Beauty fades, but love endures.” She winced at that last phrase. Good heavens, he’ll think she’s a lovesick goose, though that wasn’t far from the truth.

Still, he sat in silence. Oh God, what had she done? Her heart sped to an alarming rate and her breathing shallowed. Please don’t faint. That would take this already disastrous situation to an entirely new and horrifying place.

“I know I told you not to turn around, but please say something,” she whispered.

The chair turned then and she came face-to-face not with Thomas—whom she’d expected—but rather his older brother Sullivan. The second son. The soldier…older, taller, and much more handsome brother.

Tilly’s hands began to sweat and her insides knotted.

Sullivan stood and walked around the desk, leaning his long frame against the heavy